MAC Part 2

Going back to the MAC!  It was so great that we need to re-experience it!  Just kidding. We’re competing at the Mid-Atlantic Championships this weekend, which conveniently has the same acronym.  Not much to say here…we’ve practiced a few times since the (other) MAC two weeks ago, run some rounds, and tweaked some styling in our smooth foxtrot routine.  It’s mostly a smaller competition than the MAC, so I’m going to be lazy and skip the tanning.  Our smooth events only have three couples each, though our standard events are more substantial in terms of numbers of competitors, both starting at a quarterfinal.

One thing that will be nice about this comp is my dad will be attending and plans to take lots of pictures.  He’s been very into his new hobby of photography and took some excellent shots at a recent competition.  Hopefully he will recognize me….he does not seem to register my identity (as his own daughter) very quickly when I am in full ballroom-glam mode.  It’s both sad and hilarious.

I will also be attending another collegiate competition next week, but dancing with various other people on the team and not my regular partner.  Mixing it up a bit! And even doing rhythm. Crazy, right?

Short Hair in Standard/Smooth

Well, I had written the post on ballroom hair and discussed short hair before having personal experience with it.  I’ve had about shoulder-length hair more or less all my life, until last summer, during which I chopped it all off into a pixie.  Why not, right?  For dance, it’s been a mix of experimentation and struggle with regards to how to deal with it.  So, here are some things I’ve tried and also some other options I have yet to attempt.

Option 1: Gel/slick it back with a comb, then a boar-bristle brush, spray the everloving crap out of it, and stick on IMG_1721something shiny.  Use a hairdryer on hot to seal everything in place, in between layers of product.  It’s relatively safe, but I run the risk of those scalp lines cause I have such thin hair.  It is basically the same as a normal ballroom bun without the bun part, I suppose.  Then stick on one of those stoned ornament things for ballroom.  I pinned it with mini bobby pins for this comp over my side part, but found out later than I really should just glue it onto my head with WASHABLE white glue (Elmer’s, the stuff kindergarteners use for crafts).  Don’t worry, it just kind of dissolves in a hot shower.  Please excuse my slightly crazy facial expression.

Option 2: No gel, just lots of spraying in place.  Leaves more volume, but less control. This worked for one of the days at my last competition, but then the second day, because I had not washed my hair that morning and was attempting to tame bedhead, the hair got a little wild in the back, at least by the end of the day.  Ick.  I think with more attention, this could have worked alright.  It’s less shiny, however.  Same deal with the hair ornament.  You could also stone your part or put in designs manually, but I’m lazy.

Credit: Dance to Eternity

Option 3: Add lots of product and texture.  Waves/curls/whatever, which in this case was achieved with hair wax (TIGI Bed Head for Men Matte Separation, which I usually use every day for texture) and a small-barrel IMG_1823curling iron, then tons of freezing spray (I recommend Aussie, Tresemme, or got2B, and these are relevant to all of the above styles).  Got a lot of compliments with this one, even though I thought it was just okay.  It’ll need some more practice. Pinned-in shiny hair ornament did not stay put, and I actually had to toss it off in the middle of a round because it was just swinging around.

Other options not yet explored (personally)

Champ girl (who won) at the MAC had a cool hairdo.  She had like a long pixie or short bob, I think, and slicked it all back and wrapped a wide headband with a flower on it around her whole head.  It matched her dress and was surprisingly cute.

Grow out into a short bob, long enough to gel back and create a stubby ponytail, then stick on a hairpiece/fake hair.  Will probably have to go this route soon-ish, as I’m planning on growing my hair out this summer.

Pin curls or something along those lines? I think you’d need a long pixie for that though.

I would loooove to try finger waves, but am incapable of doing it myself, and I think only some hairdressers have that skill.

For rhythm/Latin you could do the same styles, or just have a lighter touch of spray, because it’s fine to have your hair moving around for those dances.  A spiky look could also be fun, and cool asymmetrical cuts are also popular.

Ballroom Bargains, January 2015

I frequent various dance apparel and shoe websites in my free time (or to procrastinate…ahem), and was inspired by my good friend’s Lululemon blog (old dance friend, actually!) to pass on those deals to you.  I don’t know if this will become a regular feature or what, but we’ll see how it goes.  Please let me know if you have any luck with these, or insider knowledge about other websites!  Also, shop responsibly ;)

Women’s Dance Shoes:

Freed Holly Latin shoes at Danceshopper. Marked down to $59 from $119, in a wide variety of sizes. I have never tried these, personally, but my first two pairs of Latin shoes were Freed, and they were pretty good and cheaper for the UK brands.  This seems like a steal!

Capezio Lorelei Latin/social shoes at Danceshopper.  Marked down to $70-ish from $250.  They’re kind of crazy, but maybe you want them for a performance or social dancing.  Not generally recommended for competition purposes, but if you’re a unique person, do you!

Capezio Jemma Latin/social shoes at Danceshopper.  Marked down to $70-ish from $209.  I think the white/silver ones are pretty nice for social dancing or maybe even for competitions if you are super super pale.

IDS Tanya Latin shoes at Danceshopper. Marked down to $77 from $119. I think this is a solid brand, though I’ve never tried them.  Very basic but pretty criss-cross-strap Latin shoe, works for competition.

Supadance 1029 from Danceshopper. T-strap Latin shoe, comes in a variety of colors, sizes, and heel heights, priced from $87-$115.

Ray Rose Monsoon in size 8 (UK), 3-inch heel, from Back Bay Dancewear.  $60.  Very specific, but an awesome deal on a great shoe. Normally 2.5-3-times in price.

Freed Valencia practice shoes, slip-on style, 1.5-inch Cuban heel, from Danceshopper.  Marked down to $59 from $118.  I have a similar model that laces up instead, Roma, that I like a lot! I’m on my second pair of those.

Supadance 1227 oxford-style practice shoes.  $104- $118 from $139. Some really nifty patterns!  I’ve never seen stingray patterns on ballroom shoes.  Hmmm really tempted to get these myself!….but, poor grad student who spends too much money on ballroom already :(

Werner Kern Laura standard court shoes from Back Bay Dancewear, $79.  Haven’t tried this brand, but I’ve heard good things.

Supadance 1012 standard court shoes with instep strap, from Danceshopper.  $104-$126 from $149. These are pretty popular, but I prefer the diagonal strap of the 1004s. The security of the strap is really nice.

Supadance 1008 standard elasticized court shoes with round toe, from Danceshopper. $110-ish from $149, only comes in smaller sizes.  I had a pair of these and they were nice, just weren’t the right fit for my foot.  They’re quite popular.

Supadance 2003 standard pointed-toe court shoes with wraparound strap, from Danceshopper. $110-ish from $149, smaller sizes. These are a newer model, I think.

Women’s Dance Clothing (prices aren’t all listed because they are highly variable):

Zdenka Arko slitted smooth/standard skirt, M/L and red or yellow, from Danceshopper

Espen Salberg long-sleeved ruched crossover top, from Danceshopper

Espen Salberg halter-ish top, from Danceshopper

Lulu Couture Black Swan long-sleeved drapey top, from Danceshopper

Santoria Kinanu black and white top, from Danceshopper

Arc Crystal Halter Top from e.K.Clothing, $19, L turquoise color only

Sheer Overlay Halter Top from e.K.Clothing, $18, comes in larger sizes but runs small

Boy short dance pants from e.K.Clothing, $5!!! ESSENTIAL and they come in all sorts of colors to match your dresses

Santoria Miolenae Buckle practice trousers, from Danceshopper

Gaucho pant from e.K.Clothing, $18 in a variety of sizes and colors

Chula ruffled Latin skirt from e.K.Clothing, $23 in fringe sizes

Embossed lace dress from e.K.Clothing, $27, medium in black/jade.  Good syllabus USA Dance-friendly option with no sparkles.

Tulle Standard/Smooth Dress from Light in the Box, $62 from $155, variety of colors and sizes.

Men’s Stuff! (I don’t know much about these, but here are some links anyway.)

Freed Latin Competition Shoes, from Danceshopper.  Marked down to $69-80 from $138. Wide variety of sizes, though it looks like most of them are wide-width as opposed to regular-width.

Freed Standard Practice Shoes, from Danceshopper.  $69 from $138.  Lots of sizes.

Satin tie from e.K.Clothing, $4, in a variety of colors, to match your partner’s outfit or just add some general schnaz.

General site links:

Danceshopper.com sale section. US site that should have quick shipping on in-stock stuff and I believe you can still return sale items just kidding, clearance is FINAL SALE, so make sure you want it.  I ordered some men’s shoes from here recently that got stuck in customs for over a month, but I don’t think that’s normal?

Dance-shop.com clearance (from the UK and limited sizes, but great deals and it doesn’t take as long to get to the US as you might think.  I’ve gotten shoes in a couple of weeks before.  Keep in mind the exchange rate and shipping.)

DuoDance – (UK) They claim that their sales will end, but there is ALWAYS a sale going on.  Also, relatively fast shipping for overseas.

Light in the Box (China?) sells all sorts of stuff. Quality is probably all over the place, but they have some pretty good designs and are very inexpensive.  I bought a bridesmaid’s dress from them recently, and it was of surprisingly high quality and quite cheap.  I think things take a while to get made and ship to the US.  They have some insanely cheap costume dresses (under $100) that you could use for collegiate comps.  I would probably not get shoes from there, though.

VE Dance (US). Vince and Daisy are local, very nice, and have established themselves as makers/importers/makers/whatever of quality bargain dancewear – it’s less expensive than the luxury brands but very nice stuff.  And thus super popular among collegiate dancers and recent graduates.  They also travel quite a bit, so you can try on stuff in person.

Dancesport.co.uk (UK) sale shoe section and sale apparel section. Lots of good stuff, clunky-looking website, but very helpfully organized by size.  Haven’t ordered from here, personally, but I’ve heard they’re good.

Cherry Culture sale makeup – they sell mostly NYX, which is a great bargain brand and has lots of ballroom-y bright colors.

Post-MAC Update

So it’s been a week, but I haven’t had any time to get my thoughts down on this competition/trip (grad school craziness).  All-in-all, it was amazing!!!  The worst parts were the two 10-ish-hour drives, but with friends, good music, and podcasts, it’s manageable.  Just not something I want to do all the time.  (Of course, I’m traveling to the DC area for the USA Dance Midatlantic NQE in three weekends, but never mind that…).

Anyway.  Staying in the competition hotel was a fantastic idea and now I totally understand why the pro-am folks almost always do that, even if they’re local.  So so convenient to just run up to your room to change or chill or whatever, rather than find a corner in a crowded ballroom to stash your stuff, have to change in a bathroom stall, etc.  I wish that the MAC was in its traditional venue of Manhattan Center in Midtown, which has a nice regal feel to it, but the hotel was fine (other than the staff seeming to not give a crap about anything, but that’s a separate issue).  Driving there was relatively easy.

On Friday, I had absolutely no events to dance until Masters of Syllabus (MoS) Standard in the late afternoon/evening, and it was great, because I had severe lack of sleep.  So I was just around, cheering people on, and trying to be generally helpful.  We hadn’t practiced syllabus stuff almost at all prior to the comp, so MoS was a lot of lead-follow (which started out a little clunky) and trying to resist doing open moves.  I didn’t feel like wearing one of my costumes, so just stuck with this purple syllabus outfit I have (made by Dance America, love it!) and some bling, which was an approach that one of my friends also took.  I heard from her that someone from the judges’ area or thereabouts approved of our simpler approach, which is nice to know  Mostly, I was just lazy and didn’t feel like dealing with all that volume/floatage.  We got to the final out of a first round and ended up placing 5th, so clearly attire does not matter if it’s classy and your dancing speaks for itself. Woot!  Similarly, the champ Latin winner had an unstoned black dress and just some classy stoned accessories, including this awesome ear cuff thing.  Not that I’m that cool, just drawing a similarity there.  Interestingly, every single champ Latin finalist was wearing black or white.  Mostly black.

MAC Champ Latin Finalists

Saturday was full full full of dancing.  I think I danced at least 50 individual dances in all.  I was exhausted by the end of the day, but it was a really “on” day.  Jesse and I made quarters for novice and prechamp standard, and missed the semi for novice by a single mark.  Big improvement over last year’s MAC and woot, qualifying for Nationals.  We also had our best round ever during the prechamp first round, and importantly made it through quickstep without effing it up!  It’s a common issue.  I now know a lot of people in these events, so that was really nice seeing good friends from undergrad and bumping into other ballroom friends (sometimes literally, on the floor).

The BF (who hadn’t danced rhythm in five years) and I finaled in silver rhythm, and it was pretty fun. Then, smooth! Jesse and I finaled in prechamp from a quarter, and then danced champ.  This was our first time really dancing champ smooth (last time, we were the only couple), so we freaked out when we found out we had made the final from the semi of 12.  I literally screamed a little, and if you know me, I am not a particularly excitable person (except when it comes to cute animals and food).  I was close to dead from exhaustion by that point, and joked to Jesse that we could just stand there in the final and not dance, because we’d get 7th anyway.  But we ended up placing 5th, which was, again, unexpected and fantastic.  Mayo Alanen was generous enough to sponsor scholarships for those two smooth events, so that’s always a nice bonus.  He seems super nice and I’d love to have a lesson with him at some point.  The winners and many finalists (I think) are his students, so I think the money will just go back to him in some form, but it’s nice nonetheless.

Saw some spectacular champ standard dancers, and the whole thing ended with some slightly controversial results.  The winner was a couple with better dramatic, athletic, WDSF-style shaping, but worse floorcraft, while my (and many others’) favorites took second – they were more balanced, I think.  The 2nd place guy looked familiar and his name rang a bell, so I thought he was one half of a youth 10-dance couple I had loved from a few years back. It turns out that he is that other guy’s brother!  Ridiculously talented families, man.

Sunday was a fun day in the city, watching the Broadway musical If/Then starring Idina Menzel from the 9th row (!!!), eating lots of good food (highly recommend Cook Shop and Stanton Social Club), and doing a moderate amount of touristy walking around stuff in the cold rain.  Overall, fantastic weekend, and I was sad to go back to my normal boring life.

I was really happy with our dancing, but being the way I am, am always looking to improve.  A few major things now – shaping/huge steps in standard, extending shapes and polishing transitions during smooth, and some posture stuff.  Looking forward to a couple of lessons this week!

Edited to Add: Also, so many of the Midwestern dancers who traveled to this competition killed it! I identify as more East Coast, but have come to adopt this area of the country.  I think the East Coast has a better reputation for good dancers, but the Midwest people proved to everyone that there’s some fantastic dancing there as well :).  Also! MAC has the best team match.  Where else are you going to see Robotic Hustle and 3-person Argentine Tango?

Dancing is more fun stoned. Here’s how to glue rhinestones on practically anything, Part One.

elise:

Well, I would’ve done my own post, but this one is so good, I’m just going to pass it on to you. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Against Line of Dance:

So! You have some perfectly good piece of clothing, or item of dancewear, or a shoe, or a cat or whatever, and you think, “Self, this really would look a lot better if it sparkled like CRAZY.” Congratulations! I agree with you! Let’s glue some rhinestones on that action!

In this series, I’m going to walk you through an actual recent stoning project and give some general tips on what to do, what not to do, and my own process that I’ve developed over the course of screwing up a lot. As always, questions and your own experience and tips in the comments are greatly appreciated.

All the advice in this post is going to be designed for the At-Home Stoner, but it’s also a good guide to check out if you’re buying a ballroom dress, or something that already has rhinestones on it, so you understand where your pricetag…

View original 1,671 more words

New Year, Pre-MAC Thoughts

Literally just tanned in preparation for the Manhattan Amateur Classic happening this weekend! (Also treated myself to a gel French manicure this morning, cause why not.) I’m super pumped.  It’s a great competition, a USA Dance amateur one with way more open-level couples than we ever encounter elsewhere, and we have time to hang out in New York City afterwards!  My partner Jesse and I didn’t dance together at all over the holidays, since we were several hundred miles apart, so I was a bit worried about getting in enough practice in the week that we had back at school.  Over break, I did get a couple of rare solo practices in, which were useful and hopefully beneficial. So, once I got back, we practiced every day we could (three consecutive days), even with two sessions in one day, and ran a few sets of smooth and standard rounds.  It’s death, but so necessary for endurance, which is sometimes often our biggest problem at competitions.

But, good news, practice went pretty well and I feel good about dancing this weekend.  We’ll see how it all works out, but we are hoping to qualify for Nationals, which requires that you are in the top 65% of your event.  A good heuristic (rule of thumb) is that if you make the first callback, you’re in.  Though because of the way the numbers work, you might even qualify for Nationals without even getting a callback.  Weird, right?  Last year, we qualified for prechamp standard but not novice standard, oddly enough.  We chose to just compete in novice and prechamp smooth, since entries at Nationals are pretty expensive, and it worked out pretty well and wasn’t too stressful physically nor mentally.  Hopefully we qualify for more events this year (novice/prechamp standard and prechamp/champ smooth), but we’ll see how it shakes out.  We’ll also be dancing Masters of Syllabus standard, which is a special event at MAC that is open to people of any level, from newcomer through championship.  The only stipulation is that you stick to the syllabus, meaning Bronze, Silver, and Gold figures.  It’s a fun challenge and you get to dance with people against whom you wouldn’t normally compete.  Also a good opportunity to brush up on your basics.

I’ll also be doing silver rhythm for fun with my boyfriend and former dance partner.  This should be…interesting.  I don’t compete rhythm anymore and he hadn’t really danced any rhythm in five or six years, so literally it’s just for fun and because we had an extra event.

Champ smooth is the biggest who-knows?! situation, because it’s the first time we’ll be competing in it for real, against legit champ smooth dancers.  It starts at a semi, so if we get called back into the final (which is a BIG if), I’ll freak out from joy and disbelief.  Either way, I’ll be happy to be in the final or get to watch really good dancers, if we don’t make it.

Really looking forward to seeing dance friends from all over the place!  Some of my ballroom teammates from the University of Virginia (where I went for undergrad, MBL!) will be there, as well as a healthy number from the Midwest, some Midwest people who have since relocated to the East Coast, and then random other dance friends whom I’ve met through competitions.  I’m also hopefully hanging out with my brother, who lives in Manhattan, aka far away.

In other unrelated news, grad school life has been super busy, but in a good way.  Currently working on my first real manuscript in grad school to be submitted for publication, with three studies that make sense together and worked (believe me, it can be very difficult to get this to happen).  Taking one class and teaching another one.  And supervising a senior thesis student and taking one three new research assistants.  Busy busy!  Getting re-inspired and motivated to do research.  It really comes and goes.

Oh, I almost forgot.  I volunteered at Yuletide Ball, a DC-area competition, and got to watch Mirko and Edita do some shows and as well as take a workshop with them.  World champions, man (at least according to WDSF).  Fantastic stuff!  I even got my picture taken with them, which I normally don’t do with celebrities.  Not sure when I would’ve gotten another opportunity, so of course I just had to go for it.  Also, social dancing with open standard dancers was great.  DC has a much bigger standard scene than does Columbus, or at least Ohio State, so I got my fix. Woot.

Lastly, go Bucks!  National Champions of the first college football playoffs and whatnot.  I’m not used to my sports teams being very good, so this was a nice refreshing change.

Looking forward to the rest of 2015!

Merry Christmas!

I guess I’m technically a day late, but Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all, whatever you celebrate! And if you don’t, I hope you enjoyed a day or two or more off to relax.  My family did the whole present thing, then had a Vietnamese duck soup lunch (this restaurant was crowded!) and surf and turf dinner.  Super traditional, I know.

Here are a couple of holiday themed showdances for your enjoyment/entertainment.  I promise that part of the second one is hilarious…starting a little after minute 2.